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Ranch House Kitchen offers taste of the South

Somewhere, Fannie Flagg is weeping.

Flagg, if your memory is … well … flagging, is the author of “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” which became the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.” What brought her to mind was the fried green tomatoes served at Ranch House Kitchen at Town Square.

Fried green tomatoes likely originated as a way to use up a surfeit of the garden-grown fruits before they ripened and became more perishable. They’re firmer than their red counterparts, with a milder flavor. And every good Southern cook knows that the way to cook them to advantage is to coat them lightly in cornmeal (some use a wispy dusting of flour instead) and saute just until they crisp slightly.

Although the best fried green tomatoes have a coating that’s akin to a lace petticoat, the ones at Ranch House Kitchen ($6.95) seemed more like they had been suited in armor, with thick layers that ended up cracking off and separating from the tomato on both sides. And with the amount of grease that was left in the bottom of the basket, these definitely weren’t cooked to advantage.

Although that was the worst problem we encountered at Ranch House Kitchen, it wasn’t the only one.

Loaded Mac and Cheese ($13.95) sounded kind of novel, with its chicken and broccoli and bacon and tomatoes, but the reality fell a little short. Our server let us know that the restaurant was out of broccoli, so we chose to go without. What we were served was a dish of frilly (and perfectly al dente) campanelle pasta tossed with lots of grilled chicken and diced tomato and just enough bacon to add a bit of smokiness without overwhelming. The missing broccoli notwithstanding, it actually was a pretty good dish. But this was no “mac and cheese.” I can handle the use of another pasta cut, but the cheese sauce was very, very light; it was pasta with chicken and tomatoes and cheesy sauce, maybe, but calling it mac and cheese was tantamount to false advertising.

For a barbecue combo platter ($23.95) we got a choice of two meats and two sides. Like the broccoli they were out of the brisket, so we ended up with the pulled pork and the turkey. Both were on the dry side, but the overly thick, overly sweet sauce didn’t do much to help with that. The barbecue chips were lacking much in the way of personality, and the baked beans were overly soft and plagued by that overly sweet sauce.

So it sounds like I really hated Ranch House Kitchen, right? Not true. Our server was fantastic – pleasant, efficient, with a great sense of humor – and the atmosphere is pleasant enough. We liked the variety on the menu. And on the face of it, the pasta dish was pretty well put together.

But here’s the thing: French haute cuisine and its ilk aren’t the only types of food that require knowledge and experience as well as skill to execute successfully; that also applies to such earthy and rustic fare as Southern food and barbecue.

Ranch House Kitchen, it seems, needs somebody like Fannie Flagg to tell them how it’s done.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or hrinella@reviewjournal.com.

 

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